Is it time for Australia to ditch its British royal rulers? Or as chairman of the Australian Republican Movement Peter FitzSimons described the monarchy in an impassioned speech this week: “One family of aristocrats living in a palace in England.”
“It is our hope and belief that sometime in the next five years, Australia can again begin the formal process towards becoming the Republic of Australia,” he said, referencing a failed referendum on the issue in 1999.
More than 15 years later, FitzSimons now has the backing of almost all of Australia’s state leaders, who have signed a declaration calling for the country’s independence.
The declaration comes ahead of the country’s national Australia Day holiday, on Jan. 26.
Of Australia’s eight state and territory leaders, seven have lent their support to the republic campaign, alongside Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
It’s a very different view from former Prime Minister and staunch monarchist, Tony Abbott.
Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett was the only state leader who refused to sign the declaration, though is said to be generally supportive of the movement.
Andrew Barr, chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory, was one of the leaders who signed the Australian Republican Movement declaration.
“I believe Australians deserve to have a head of state who is Australian — someone who lives in our country and represents our values and beliefs,” he told the ARM.
“Our ties with the Monarchy continue to reflect a nation of the past. It’s time for us to grow up and stand on our own two feet.”
Australia is a constitutional monarchy — while the country has its own parliament, Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. Her Majesty’s representative in Australia is the Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.
A referendum on whether Australia should become a republic was held in 1999, with the majority voting to keep the Queen as head of state.
The leader of the Australian Republican Movement at the time, was now-Prime Minister Turnbull.
While 45 percent of voters supported a republic in the 1999 referendum, this appeared to have dropped to 38 percent in a 2013 poll.